Bible Commentaries
Psalms 7

Parker's The People's BibleParker's The People's Bible

Verses 1-17

Psalms 7:0

[Note. This psalm was composed when David and his band were surrounded by the snares which had been laid for them by the agents of Saul. The psalm was occasioned by the treachery of Cush. The word Shiggaion , which is at the head of it, is a musical term, and probably denotes a lyrical composition indicative of high mental excitement. The first part, of five verses, closes with "Selah." The remainder is divisible into two parts of six verses each; but the last verse stands alone, in all probability as a simple interjection.]

1. O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me:

2. Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver.

3. O Lord my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands;

4. If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy:)

5. Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust Selah.

6. Arise, O Lord, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded.

7. So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes therefore return thou on high.

8. The Lord shall judge the people: judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.

9. Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.

10. My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.

11. God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.

12. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow and made it ready.

13. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.

14. Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.

15. He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.

16. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.

17. I will praise the Lord according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high.

Human Experience

David was young when this psalm was written. There is a good deal of youthful force and urgency in its noble terms. Is there not a youthful style of composition, in which everything is superlative, towering, forceful, wanting, if in anything, in moderation? This man has no doubt about himself, what young man ever has? He is perfectly sure that heaven cannot regard him but with complacency. His life has been comparatively short; he can count its days, and examine each, and pronounce upon each day and say, "Well-kept" a day of religious recognition of the nearness of God, and of religious service towards his fellow creatures. The enemy Cush the Benjamite was all wrong. What man could ever see two sides of a case? Who, being persecuted and overborne, did not feel that he was the injured party, and that the other man was a very child of darkness, given over to a strong delusion to believe a lie? Who Cush was we need not inquire, because he lives every day. Cush was a Benjamite, an Ethiopian, a black man most black, in and out, in David's eyes. Is there not an Ethiopian before every man a black spot, a black difficulty, a black storm but for which all the outlook would be beautiful as a summer morning? Who does not feel that there is a cold Shadow on the road he slowly treads not a shadow he can cross and leave behind him, but a shadow that accompanies him, that will play the unwelcome companion to his steps, that will sometimes almost rise from the ground and look at him hideously and defiantly? We cannot get rid of that shadow. It comes in all kinds of forms and in all kinds of measure; but, to a certainty, there it is. David is in a court; David is surrounded by splendour; David is in many respects and relations a high favourite; he can do what many other men cannot do; he can make the harp vibrate with music to please the ear of the king; he is sought after; and yet the Ethiopian looks at him and kills all the sunshine; when he passes by, Cush the Benjamite utters a hiss which takes out of David's life all its young hope. Is it not so today? and will it not be so to the end of the chapter? And is it not true account for it as we may that the difficulty destroys the enjoyment, the one thin dark line shuts out the sun, blots out the radiant heavens, and makes life very burdensome? Why should it be thus? We have a thousand mercies; we own the number; there is no dispute about the arithmetical count: the mercies are a thousand strong; but there is one shadow, one hindrance, one trouble, one little stubborn gate we cannot open; and under the influence of that exceptional, even solitary circumstance the thousand mercies go for nothing. Cush may have been Saul himself. It may have been the king that made David's life a burden to him. Yet he was in the king's service and in the king's pay. He lived more or less in the king's house, and he liked to be there. There was in him something that said, "This man and his kingliness is a relation of mine. I have a long way to look up to see his towering head, and sometimes I am almost afraid of him; it seems as if by closing his fingers upon me he could crush me. Yet, I cannot account for it, there is something in me that likes the man, that claims him as one of my own kindred; he and I seem to be in the same lineage. I could run away from the palace, and yet I could not; I could shatter the harp, yet my fingers will not break a string of it. I would I were done with this royal subservience, and yet I like it; it is slavery, and yet it is worship; it has a hateful aspect, and yet it wins me by a blessed fascination." That is human experience. The thing we cannot live without is sometimes the thing that hinders us most. The difficulty is in close quarters with our life; we have not to travel far to get at it; it is round about us, insidiously, sometimes invisibly, always uncomfortably.

How, then, will David act in sorrow? That is the great and abiding inquiry. Now that he is in distress we shall hear what wondrous tones there are in the throat of sorrow:

"O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust" ( Psa 7:1 ).

A direct appeal to heaven without any intervention. This bodes well for the young suppliant. Though a king be set against him he will cleave the king in two; his sword shall go right through helmet and skull and body. He wins who speaks in this tone. To what God does he appeal? "my God." What does he offer his God? "my trust." There is a grand simplicity in this worship. This is not literary praise; it is the praise of the rising, inspired, troubled, but confident heart. We pray when we are in sorrow somewhat jerkingly, incoherently, impetuously, but it is all prayer; and sometimes when the quiet days come we gather up our rough and jagged sentences, often apparently so unrelated one to the other, and make music of them. The words that are startled out of the soul are words that might never flow from the artistic pen, but they will bear to be kept, to be looked upon in after days, and to be brought into reconciliation and harmony; and then we prize them as men prize the very throbbing of the heart.

Why pray so loudly, clearly, and distinctly? Because the enemy is mighty, and he may "tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver" ( Psa 7:2 ). If it be a question merely between man and man, woe betide the weak! If the great battles of human existence are to be measured by the strength of the contending parties, virtue will be thrown down, discrowned, destroyed. But there are times when there must be a God: controversy would be intolerable; doubt would be out of place not blasphemy against heaven, but blasphemy against the agonised heart. In these dark times we may be said to create a God. Judge these high questions in your high moods; there is no intellectual ladder that you can set up against this mystery, and by which you can climb your way into the presence of the throne: the heart can fly all the distance, counting the separating constellations nothing in the exercise of its infinite strength, created by infinite trust. What we have lost in all these matters may be described as the divine fire. We have thought to beat cold iron into shape. Iron will only obey the hammer and the hand when fire has undertaken to do the intermediate work: it is when the soul is on fire that we have no doubt about God. When we are prosperous, too highly indulged, even sated with luxury and plenty, we play the agnostic, the atheist, the speculative thinker; but when circumstances change, when the floor gives way, when the earth rocks, when the sun blinks, as if in mortal fear, and shuts out the day; when the child dies, and when all nature seems to be set in array against the progress of life, then the real man within us will talk: the day of indifference will have departed, the time of agonised earnestness will have set in; and when agony is stinging the soul and darkness is accumulating itself upon the life like a burden, then let man say whether he is imbecile, whether he is unworthy of the related condition of things, and of the sovereignty which overrules and guides and crowns them all. We cannot listen to the cold man. We will not allow such a man to come into this holy place of the innermost thought; he cannot speak this language of the spirit; he is in a foreign universe; he must depart. Imagine not that religion is a subject to be talked over flippantly, easily, off-handedly, as if one opinion were as good as another, and as if the possessor of an opinion had come straight from the eternal throne with a special revelation; we can only understand these mysteries when we are plunged in sorrow, or when we are exalted with a pure and even celestial joy. David's young heart was true to such principles as these. He did not undervalue the foe; he called him a "lion"; and he saw that he was no longer safe if God did not intervene.

Now he pleads his innocence:

"O Lord my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; if I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy:) let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust" ( Psa 7:3-7 ).

A wonderful image is this of "palming" iniquity. The conjurer lives by palming; the conjurer's occupation would be gone if we could palm as well as he. We know not that there is something in his great hand; on the contrary, he so plays with it and displays it that the idea never occurs to us that there is anything inside it: but for days he has studied how to hold the piece of paper or the thing he is playing with; it is there, but nobody knows it. So the Psalmist says, I am not palming iniquity, hiding it in the hollow of my hand, and then lifting up my hand as if in prayer; there is my hand, open; any man may touch it, and if he can find evil in that palm then let him strike, then let him crush me with just penalty. That is a grand appeal, and it is possible to every man. But who could bear to have both hands laid open and all the fingers separated that there might be nothing hidden? Such hands may be lifted up in prayer. Who shall approach unto the hill of the Almighty and come nigh before God with prevailing intercession? "He that hath clean hands." Here again is youthful frankness, youthful confidence. Were not we better in our youth than we are in our advancing life? Was there not a time when the dewy rose typified our moral beauty and purity? Were we not once conscious of having wronged no man? But is not life a growing complication? and when we have not done the straight and direct wrong, have we not in some way gone round about and come in from a great distance and related ourselves to some form of injustice, unkindness, wickedness? These are searching questions; they bring the soul up to judgment, and they allow the soul to pass sentence on itself. Who would not be young again? Who would not accept the poet's suggestion to go back by his yesterdays and die a little child? We love to hear David's young eloquence. He has no doubt of his integrity in this particular matter. Not only so, his position is not negative; there is a parenthesis in the fourth verse that is a high commendation: "Yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy," not only have I done no wrong, I have done actual good; I have seen my enemy in distress, yea, in great and thick perplexity, and when there was no man to help him I have gone and completed the extrication. Yet now am I the object of envy, jealousy, and evil bodings. Let them prove what they say. It is envy that is operating in the soul. If the charge were direct, and, so to say, tangible, so that I could get hold of it, I would handle it like a man; but it is a look, an exclamation, a sign with meaning in it, a shrug suggestive; I cannot get hold of that: "If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me;... let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust." I am not the man to shrink from consequences, but I demand the proof; I defy the criticism; I am ready for the result. Purity is always courageous. "The righteous are bold as a lion." Not so the wicked: "The wicked flee when no man pursueth." A leaf, crisp in the autumn time, fell upon the path the wicked man was treading, and he ran away as if a wolf had been loosed upon his track. Do not defy where the morality is not equal to the occasion, for such defiance but aggravates the guilt it was intended to conceal. Be of a right mind towards God. Let the purpose of life be on the whole sound, good, and upward, and then leave your enemies in the hands of God.

David presents a view of the case which is full of noble meaning. He presents the case as that of an innocent man being delivered by the Lord, saved from the rage of his enemies; and then he pictures the whole congregation of the people compassing the deliverer about; and he adds:

"For their sakes therefore return thou on high" ( Psa 7:7 ).

David had no difficulty in invoking a tremendous punishment upon his enemies. But the language must be judged by the times in which it was employed. Not only so, every man has his own language. In a sense there is a common tongue, but in another sense there is a private and individual tongue. You must know the speaker before you can understand the speech. The man explains the mystery that is round about him. Could we be but one day with some men whom we now wonder about and accuse of inconsistency and eccentricity, we should see the whole explanation, and give confidence where we now perhaps accord but doubtful trust. There is a key which opens every man's character. If you do not get the key you are doing the man an injustice in trying to understand him otherwise. You have not the key of the gate; you cannot climb over it, you cannot open it except with the key, and without the key you stand back and misconstrue and misrepresent and misjudge the gate altogether; whereas it you had but that one little key the lock would answer it in a moment, and the gate almost open of itself, and beyond it there would be liberty and security and the joy of protective friendship. So it is with language. David's language was very strong; but David was a poet, and a Hebrew poet a poet of poets. All the poetry that had gone before him was but as a pedestal on which he stood to lift himself and his art into a nobler elevation. We must not, therefore, judge David's language, especially when he is imprecatory, with our critical notions of propriety and measure. No other terms would have expressed his then feeling. Were he with us now, none would be so sweet in song, none so tender in prayer. Why, even in his day he sang. He concludes this complaint against Cush the Benjamite the black man with a determination to sing. The seventeenth verse says:

"I will praise the Lord according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high." ( Psa 7:17 )

The psalm comes in with a tone of sorrow and loneliness, but it goes out with cymbals and dances, and songs and utterances of triumph. We thought in the earlier part of the psalm that David had never sung in his life, or if he had, he certainly would never sing again. He seems to write himself out of his misery, as men now pray themselves out of their trouble. When the prayer begins, the listener says, "How heavily loaded is that heart with sorrow! Surely that life is distressed beyond all possibility of recovery! Oh how sad and mournful and pensive the utterance of that heart!" And lo! the man talks over his case with God, goes into critical detail about it, mentions everything he can recollect; and the tone subtly changes all the while, and behold, at the last, the man is singing: the prayer has blossomed into a song, and he who began with supplication ended with praise. So it may be in our life: there is room enough, enemies enough there are no doubt, and difficulties apparently innumerable and insurmountable. Never underestimate these difficulties. You cannot lecture a man out of sorrow. Encourage him rather to go over his sorrow, to mention it syllable by syllable, letter by letter; and when he has continued the story a long time, ask him if he cannot recollect something more, even more deeply distressing in its nature. Encourage him to tell all that is in his heart. Be good listeners. It soothes poor misery hearkening to her tale. Ask her to tell it over again; ask if she is quite sure that you heard the statement correctly; and by this sympathetic cross-examination, by this companionship of soul, you will extract the sorrow; and the heart, without any exhortation from the listener, will begin to recover itself, to take down its harp from the willows; and you, who entered into a house of mourning, shall find yourself presently at a wedding feast, swinging round in infinite delight in the sacred dance before the Lord, because the rain is over and gone, and the time of the singing of birds has come.

Verse 10

"Handfuls of Purpose"

For All Gleaners

"My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart? Psa 7:10

This follows the previous text with remarkable propriety. The text might read, "My shield is upon God;" in other words, God is my shield-bearer.

Bibliographical Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 7". Parker's The People's Bible. 1885-95.